The Arkansas Traveler (song)

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Piano score for a portion of The Arkansas Traveler. While the song was originally composed on a fiddle, it has since been rewritten for several different instruments and occasions. Arkansas traveler song piano.jpg
Piano score for a portion of The Arkansas Traveler. While the song was originally composed on a fiddle, it has since been rewritten for several different instruments and occasions.

"The Arkansas Traveler" was the state song of Arkansas from 1949 to 1963; it has been the state historical song since 1987. The music was composed in the 19th century by Colonel Sanford C. 'Sandy' Faulkner (1806–1874); the current official lyrics were written by a committee in 1947 in preparation for its naming as the state song.

Arkansas State of the United States of America

Arkansas is a state in the southern region of the United States, home to over 3 million people as of 2017. Its name is of Siouan derivation from the language of the Osage denoting their related kin, the Quapaw Indians. The state's diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the densely forested land in the south known as the Arkansas Timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River and the Arkansas Delta.

"Colonel" Sanford C. 'Sandy' Faulkner (1806–1874) was an American born March 3 in Scott County, Kentucky to his father Nicholas and mother Sally Fletcher Faulkner. He was a politician, teller of tall tales, fiddle player, and responsible in large part for the story forming the basis of the popular fiddle tune "The Arkansas Traveler", which was the State song of Arkansas from 1949 to 1963 and has been the state historical song since 1987.


Arkansas' other official state songs are "Arkansas" (state anthem) as well as "Arkansas (You Run Deep In Me)" & "Oh, Arkansas" (both state songs).

"Arkansas", written by Eva Ware Barnett in 1916, is one of the official state songs of Arkansas. It was first adopted as the state song in the early 20th century but was removed in 1949 due to a copyright dispute. After the state settled the dispute by buying all claims to its copyright, it was restored as state song in 1963.

"Oh, Arkansas" by Terry Rose and Gary Klaff is one of the official state songs of Arkansas. It was written in 1986 for the state's 150th-anniversary celebration and was named an official "state song" by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1987.


The song is traditionally known to have had several versions of lyrics, which are much older than the copyrighted song. The official lyrics as the state historical song of Arkansas are copyrighted and can be found on the website of the Arkansas Secretary of State.

Official version

Composed by the Arkansas State Song Selection Committee in 1947.

Far and far away down in Arkansas,
There lived a squatter with a stubborn jaw.
His nose was ruby red and his whiskers gray.
And he would sit and fiddle all the night and all the day.
Came a traveler down the valley, asked if he could find a bed.
Yes, try the road, the kindly squatter said.
Then, could you point me out the way to find a tavern or an Inn?
Quite a little piece I reckon, tho I've never been!

And, when the rain came down on the cabin floor,
The squatter only fiddled all the more.
Why don't you mend your roof, said the traveler bold.
How can I mend my cabin when the rain is wet and cold?
Squatter pick a sunny morning when the air is dry and nice,
Patch up your cabin, that is my advice.
The squatter shook his hoary head, and answered with a stubborn air,
Cabin never leaks a drop when days are bright and fair!

Peter Pan version

Oh, once upon a time in Arkansas,
An old man sat in his little cabin door
And fiddled at a tune that he liked to hear,
A jolly old tune that he played by ear.
It was raining hard, but the fiddler didn't care,
He sawed away at the popular air,
Tho' his rooftree leaked like a waterfall,
That didn't seem to bother the man at all.

A traveler was riding by that day,
And stopped to hear him a-practicing away;
The cabin was a-float and his feet were wet,
But still the old man didn't seem to fret.
So the stranger said "Now the way it seems to me,
You'd better mend your roof," said he.
But the old man said as he played away,
"I couldn't mend it now, it's a rainy day."

The traveler replied, "That's all quite true,
But this, I think, is the thing to do;
Get busy on a day that is fair and bright,
Then patch the old roof till it's good and tight."
But the old man kept on a-playing at his reel,
And tapped the ground with his leathery heel.
"Get along," said he, "for you give me a pain;
My cabin never leaks when it doesn't rain."

Albert Bigelow Paine's 1st version

from The Arkansaw Bear: A Tale of Fanciful Adventure. The second version is the original version. The first version is the version taught to Northern school Children.

Oh, 'twas down in the woods of the Arkansaw,
And the night was cloudy and the wind was raw,
And he didn't have a bed, and he didn't have a bite,
And if he hadn't fiddled, he'd a travelled all night.

But he came to a cabin, and an old gray man,
And says he, "Where am I going? Now tell me if you can."

"Oh, we'll have a little music first and then some supper, too,
But before we have the supper we will play the music through.
You'll forget about your supper, you'll forget about your home,
You'll forget you ever started out in Arkansaw to roam."

Now the old man sat a-fiddling by the little cabin door,
And the tune was pretty lively, and he played it o'er and o'er,
And the stranger sat a-list'ning and a-wond'ring what to do,
As he fiddled and he fiddled, but he never played it through.

Then the stranger asked the fiddler, "Won't you play the rest for me?"
"Don't know it," says the fiddler. "Play it for yourself!" says he.

Then the stranger took the fiddle, with a riddy-diddle-diddle,
And the strings began to tingle at the jingle of the bow,
While the old man sat and listened, and his eyes with pleasure glistened,
As he shouted, "Hallelujah! And hurray for Joe!"

Albert Bigelow Paine's 2nd version

Oh, there was a little boy and his name was Bo,
Went out into the woods when the moon was low,
And he met an old bear who was hungry for a snack,
And his folks are still a-waiting for Bosephus to come back.

For the boy became the teacher of this kind and gentle creature
Who can play upon the fiddle in a very skillful way.
And they'll never, ever sever, and they'll travel on forever,
Bosephus and the fiddle and the old black bear.

Traditional children's version

I'm bringin' home a baby bumblebee
Won't my mommy be so proud of me
I'm bringin' home a baby bumblebee—Ow! It stung me!

I'm squishin' up my baby bumblebee
Won't my mommy be so proud of me
I'm squishin' up my baby bumblebee-Yuck! It's dirty!

I'm lickin' up my baby bumble bee
Won't my mommy be so proud of me
I'm lickin' up my baby bumble bee-Ick! I feel sick!

I'm throwin' up my baby bumble bee
Won't my mommy be so proud of me
I'm throwin' up my baby bumble bee-Oh! What a mess!

I'm wipin' up my baby bumble bee
Won't my mommy be so proud of me
I'm wipin' up my baby bumble bee-Oops! Mommy's new towel!

I'm wringin' out my baby bumble bee
Won't my mommy be so proud of me
I'm wringin' out my baby bumble bee-Bye-bye baby bumblebee!

Alternate Children's version

I'm bringin' home a baby bumblebee Won't my mommy be so proud of me I'm bringin' home a baby bumblebee—Ow! He stung me!

I'm bringin' home my baby dinosaur Won't my mommy kick him out the door? I'm bringin' home my baby dinosaur-Ouch! He kicked me!

I'm bringin' home my baby hippopotamus Won't my mommy fuss, and fuss, and fuss?

I'm bringin' home my baby hippopotamus-Ouch! He swallowed me!

Uses in film

"The Arkansas Traveler" was frequently featured in animated cartoons in the 1930s and 1940s, most prolifically by Carl Stalling in music he composed for the Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes series. It usually was played, sloppily, when a yokel, hillbilly, or "country bumpkin" character would appear on screen. A slow version of the "Bringing home a baby bumble-bee" version is sung by Beaky Buzzard in the short The Bashful Buzzard .

Animated cartoon film genre

An animated cartoon is a film for the cinema, television or computer screen, which is made using sequential drawings, as opposed to animation in general, which include films made using clay, puppets, 3D modeling and other means. Animated cartoons are still created for entertainment, commercial, educational and personal purposes.

<i>Merrie Melodies</i> American animated series of cartoon short films produced by Warner Bros. between 1931 and 1969

Merrie Melodies is an American animated cartoon series of comedy short films produced by Warner Bros. from 1931 to 1969, during the golden age of American animation. As with its sister series, Looney Tunes, it featured cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd.

<i>Looney Tunes</i> American animated series of comedy short films

Looney Tunes is an American animated series of comedy short films produced by Warner Bros. from 1930 to 1969 during the golden age of American animation alongside its sister series Merrie Melodies. It was known for introducing Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Tweety, Sylvester, Granny, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Tasmanian Devil, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote and many other cartoon characters.

The popularity and joyfulness of "The Arkansas Traveler" was attested to in the 1932 Academy Award-winning Laurel and Hardy short, The Music Box . In this film, the boys labored to haul a player piano up a long flight of stairs and into a house through a bedroom window. Near the conclusion of their adventure, as they are starting to clean up their mess surrounding the newly installed piano, Stan and Ollie play a roll of "Patriotic Melodies". They dance with much grace and amusement to "The Arkansas Traveler", followed briefly by "Dixie". Marvin Hatley, who composed Laurel and Hardy's "Cuckoo" theme song, was the pianist for this sequence; the player piano was not real.

Laurel and Hardy American comedy double act

Laurel and Hardy were a comedy duo act during the early Classical Hollywood era of American cinema. The team was composed of Englishman Stan Laurel (1890–1965) and American Oliver Hardy (1892–1957). They became well known during the late 1920s to the mid-1940s for their slapstick comedy, with Laurel playing the clumsy and childlike friend of the pompous bully Hardy. The duo's signature tune is known variously as "The Cuckoo Song", "Ku-Ku", or "The Dance of the Cuckoos". It was played over the opening credits of their films and has become as emblematic of the duo as their bowler hats.

<i>The Music Box</i> 1932 film by James Parrott

The Music Box is a Laurel and Hardy short film comedy released in 1932. It was directed by James Parrott, produced by Hal Roach and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film, which depicts the pair attempting to move a piano up a large flight of steps, won the first Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film (Comedy) in 1932. In 1997, this film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Dixie (song) song

"Dixie", also known as "Dixie's Land", "I Wish I Was in Dixie", and other titles, is a popular song in the Southern United States. It is one of the most distinctively Southern musical products of the 19th century and probably the best-known song to have come out of blackface minstrelsy. It was not a folk song at its creation, but it has since entered the American folk vernacular. The song likely cemented the word "Dixie" in the American vocabulary as a nickname for the Southern United States.


Currier and Ives print, depicting "The Turning of the Tune" in The Arkansas Traveler. Arkansasturnoftune.jpg
Currier and Ives print, depicting "The Turning of the Tune" in The Arkansas Traveler.

"The Arkansas Traveler" was a popular comedy sketch on the vaudeville circuit. It revolved around the encounter of a (usually lost) traveling city person with a local, wise-cracking fiddle player. Various jokes at the expense of the "city slicker" were interspersed with instrumental versions of the song. In many versions, the city person is also a fiddle player, and as the sketch progresses, eventually learns the tune and plays along with the country bumpkin.

The contemporary singer Michelle Shocked includes a vaudeville-style version of "Arkansas Traveler" on her 1992 album of the same name. Jerry Garcia and David Grisman also do a version on their 1993 album Not for Kids Only .

Michelle Shocked American singer-songwriter

Michelle Shocked is an American singer-songwriter.

Vaudeville genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s

Vaudeville is a theatrical genre of variety entertainment born in France at the end of the 18th century. A vaudeville is a comedy without psychological or moral intentions, based on a comical situation. It was originally a kind of dramatic composition or light poetry, usually a comedy, interspersed with songs or ballets. It became popular in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s, but the idea of vaudeville's theatre changed radically from its French antecedent.

Jerry Garcia American musician and member of the Grateful Dead

Jerome John Garcia was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist, best known for his work as the lead guitarist and as a vocalist with the band Grateful Dead, which came to prominence during the counterculture era in the 1960s. Although he disavowed the role, Garcia was viewed by many as the leader or "spokesman" of the group.

In other media

Dan Hornsby Original Arkansas Traveler Part 1 (with Clayton McMichen, Columbia 15253D) 1920s version for Columbia Records and Original Arkansas Traveler Part 2 (with Clayton McMichen, Columbia 15253D)

Charles Ives uses the tune in his theater orchestra piece called "Country Band" March.

Eck Robertson and Henry C. Gilliland's 1922 recording of "Arkansaw Traveler" [sic] (Victor 18956) was selected for the 2002 National Recording Registry. [1]

The song is the centerpiece of The Legend of the Arkansas Traveler, a short "Concert Paraphrase on an Old American Fiddle Tune" for orchestra composed by Harl McDonald in 1939. [2]

Children's entertainer Raffi used the melody of "The Arkansas Traveler" for the song "Peanut Butter Sandwich," which appears on his album Singable Songs for the Very Young .

The "Baby Bumblebee" version was sung on two episodes of Barney & Friends, and one video from its predecessor, Barney and the Backyard Gang.

Pete Seeger recorded the vaudeville version of "Arkansas Traveler" for his 1954 album "Frontier Ballads" [3]

The Jukebox Band perform their version of this song in a Shining Time Station episode, Win, Lose or Draw.

See also

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Arkansas Traveler (honorary title)

The Arkansas Traveler is an honorary title bestowed on notable individuals who, through their actions serve as goodwill ambassadors for the US state of Arkansas. A certificate is signed by the governor, secretary of state and the recipient's sponsor, and given to the honoree during a ceremony attended by the signers.